Electoral integrity has scored big — District of Columbia federal district court Judge Richard Leon just issued an order denying the request by the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and the U.S. Justice Department for a temporary restraining order (TRO). Thus, there will be no TRO preventing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) from instructing residents of Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas that they must comply with state laws requiring proof-of-citizenship when they register to vote.
Judge Leon said in a four-page order that because “the registration deadlines for the Alabama and Georgia primaries and for the Kansas Republican Caucus had already passed at the time this TRO motion was filed . . . and that the effects of the [EAC’s] actions on the ongoing registration process for the Kansas Democratic Caucus . . . are uncertain at best, plaintiffs have not demonstrated they will suffer irreparable harm” before the scheduled March 9 hearing on the request for a Preliminary Injunction. Judge Leon was also “not yet convinced that plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits and looks forward to the benefit of full, adversarial briefing on the complex and important issues this case presents.”
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This is a tremendous victory, particularly given the questionable conduct of the Justice Department, which came into court on Monday refusing to defend the actions of the EAC and saying it would consent not only to a TRO, but to a preliminary injunction. Judge Leon castigated DOJ during the hearing and added a footnote to his four-page order about the behavior of Justice after he said he expect a “full, adversarial briefing”:
The Court provided defendants ample opportunity to submit a written opposition to plaintiffs’ Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction…Defendant’s counsel, the Department of Justice’s Federal Programs Branch, took the time but upon the deadline submitted a short brief taking the extraordinary step of consenting to plaintiffs’ request — not for a TRO but for a preliminary injunction!
The emphasis in that last quote is from Judge Leon, making it quite clear he was very critical of the Justice Department’s failure to carry out its duty to defend its client — the EAC.
The case is not over since there will be a second hearing on March 9. But for a judge to refuse to accept a consent agreement of the lawyers in a case who are representing the plaintiffs and supposedly representing the defendants is almost unprecedented. And that footnote is an obvious warning to the Justice Department about its misbehavior in the case.